Pakistan: Under the censorship radar, anti-establishment songs flourish



Under the censorship radar,
anti-establishment songs flourish

Using humour and satire, song writers increasingly enjoy a new sense of openness and freedom of speech in Pakistan nowadays, reported Times of India on 1 November 2011:

“In a country racked by terrorist violence and extreme disillusionment with the state, humour and satire not only works as a form of subversion but also as relief and release.”

According to Kim Arora who writes for Times News Network, Beygairat Brigade’s new song ‘Aalu Anday’ is the latest in a tradition where singers and satirists have routinely ridiculed and castigated politicians in their music and lyrics.

“The bitingly satirical number is merely the latest in a long chain of similar popular anti-establishment tracks by other well-known Pakistan singers and groups such as Shehzad Roy, Junoon and Laal who have laughed at and lambasted the high and mighty across the border. (…)

In 2008, singer Shehzad Roy courted controversy with Laga Reh, a hard-hitting track attacking the establishment.

Earlier Sufi-rock band Junoon faced censorship for songs like ‘Ehtesaab’, which hit out at political corruption and was banned by the Pakistani state tv.

Now, bands such as Laal have joined the party providing music to the fiery protest poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, known for producing art out of defiance. Tv channels refused to play their song, ‘Jhooth ka uncha sar’, said to be ‘too anti-army’ in sentiment.”

Staying under the censorship radar
The music video of ‘Aalu Anday’ lampoons Pakistan’s top politicians and generals from Ashfaq Kayani to Zia-ul-Haq, from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan. When it was released in October 2011, it immediately became an internet sensation.

Record labels have been contacting the six-month-old band Beygairat Brigade but they have been turning down record deals and refused them all. “We don’t want to get into trouble with censorship or other things that happen when you start making music commercially with big companies,” said a member of the band.

“In the beginning Pakistani bands used music to express dissent because other avenues of communication were closed to them. When you are in a repressive environment you naturally find other ways to communicate and music became that outlet. Nowadays things are much more open, but I think the association between music and free speech remains,” satirist and stand-up comic Saeed Haroon told Kim Arora of Times News Network.

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Times of India – 1 November 2011:
In Pakistan, protest music is a tradition

Click to read more about music in Pakistan

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